The 1st season was very good but the producers ruined it in the 2nd season, putting non-canonical characters that, from my point of view, don't contribute anything interesting, and finally deviating a lot from what really happens in the manga.
Still I recommend it a lot, but you certainly should read the manga also because it's really very good!
Story: Overall, this started out like so many other crappy anime but it really turned it around in the end. The last few episodes of season one made up for the standard fare of the first dozen and a half. The second half left a little to be desired and didn't quite measure up to the first in final epic turns. Overall it turned out much like one would expect but with some decidly adult themes thrown in for a childs show. Thourghly enjoyable.
Animation: Can't complain, doesn't look any worse than any of the other CLAMP works I've seen from the same general time period. Pretty standard fare.
Sound: Nothing memorable. Skipped the opening and ending of the first arc, dealt with the second arc.
Characters: Amazingly enough, I actually liked them. Which is rare for me. I liked all of them, the main cast, the support cast, even the villans. Being what it was, all of the characters got some decent screen time and characterization without dragging out and bogging down the story. Their reasons for what they did, and how they got where they are. It really does just make them memorable in a way the music wasn't.
Overall: Great story, great characters. I don't know what else to tell you. If you're only interested artwork and sound then go else where as this is nothing special, but if you want a good story and characters that you'll root for, even the villans many times, this will really do it for you.
So, what happens when you cross Fushigi Yugi, Sailor Moon, and a Dungeons and Dragons vibe with way too many comedic jokes? Well, I guess this shows it. The characters are pretty much generic, the story is pretty generic and to top it all off, the main characters seem rather stupid, including Fuu who is supposed to be smart. In fact, the only real character that actually had the right thought in the head during the first episode was Umi who kept trying to get back home. Of course, she slowly gets into the swing of the other characters after the first one.
I’m not going to lie; the characters are dip-shits. They are completely stupid most of the time without any real reason to be stupid. It did surprise me though just how smart Hikaru was once in a while, only to have it crashing down moments later in her stupidity. She has almost no holds bar over going head first into a fight and so its no wonder she levels up faster then the other two. Every single character, not just the main characters but even the side characters seem to have this strange way of explaining far more then they really should at any given time. It pretty much becomes a large monolog as they explain a very small piece of the plot.
Umi is pretty much a loudmouth who will always speak her mind and sadly, that means be the annoying whinny brat all the time. She whines about everything, ‘I’m tired’ ‘My feet hurt’ ‘When will we be able to go back to Tokyo?’ stuff like that. She’s one of my least favorite characters even though all the characters do tend to become whinny throughout the show. Fuu is a rather sweet girl who always seems to care for anyone but even with that, she will not go head long into battle without some sort of plan. And then when you least expect it, she will do something stupid without thinking of the other people in her group. It’s like she has multi-personality disorder or something because she never does what she says.
Ferio is a rather odd character in that he always seems to be switching sides all the time. I get kind of surprised that anyone actually believes a word that the trickster says. And Clef isn’t any help because he’s a stone who when he talks to them from the heart, his lips don’t move at all so you have no clue if its really him or actually a trickster at times.
So, now this paragraph is about a big spoiler that I really have a problem with. The ending although a good twist, comes out of the blue and doesn’t really make much sense. The rune gods turn out to be mecha’s and they have to kill the person that summoned them. So much for saving the good princess from the ‘evil’ sorcerer. Turns out the sorcerer was misunderstood and was killed for no reason at all. I’m all for killing one to save a thousand but in this case, at least four lives were lost all because a princess went gaga over a guy, not to mention whoever else died by monsters and other catastrophes. This princess was a spoiled little brat in that aspect. Don’t take me wrong, I’m all for love, but this just kind of got ridicules.
The animation jumps all over the place and goes from normal, to chibi, to overly dramatic rather fast. I believe one of these scenes did this in about 3 minutes. Not only that but they place a lot of still shots or really little movement as though they were hurting for cash, what I consider cheep ass animation tactics. In fact, after Clef is turned to stone, every time he ends up talking, he doesn’t move his lips at all in the hologram that shows him. I mean come on, if you want to show him when he’s supposed to be speaking, move his mouth at least a little bit or just do his voice with no image of him. Every character looks generic, we have the generic looking bad guys, the generic looking heroines, the generic looking side-kick plush toy, and to top it all off, a generic looking princess to bring this whole world into perspective. All the characters have really wide eyes that pretty much take up most of their faces, which have really pointy… jaws and cheeks? Characters are also really long legged like in the Sailor Moon shows, sometimes going to an extremely elongated body like in xxxHolic. Characters do not have to look like they are thrown in a taffy machine one minute, then really chibi the next.
The English dubs are all about comedy it seems but I don’t blame it all on the dubbers. The animation also shows this but I already talked about that. Fact of the matter is, they seem to crack jokes this way and that, breaking any good drama the show could have had with a witty little joke. It throws me for a loop that they would do such a thing but I haven’t read the manga yet so not sure if Clamp actually did that as well. I do like that when they are getting a bit to obvious, they actually point it out. When going about picking voices, I believe they decided to pick the generic character voices. Julie Maddalena, who played Yumi from Chobits, Meiling in Cardcaptor, as Hikaru. Bridget Hoffman, who played Belldandy in Ah! My Goddess and Chitose from Chobits, as Fuu. Wendee Lee, who did Urd from Ah My Goddess and Ururu from Bleach, as Umi. Unsurprisingly, they do a good job though I get tired of these characters.
The debut anime of CLAMP. Brings back fond memories but gets easily over after you see it for what it really is.
ART SECTION: 5/10 [CLAMP your hands if you believe this series is dated.]
Take your average Mahou Shojo. Toss in some mecka and a fairy tale land and you got it! Bright colors, corny JRPG uniforms, character figures without much detail, lots of SD moments. These elements are not bad by themselves but the dated technology along with low production values and numerous clichés really ruin what good there was in it. Too many stills. Too many crude SD moments. Too many choppy movements. The usual Mahou Shojo “going naked before transforming” and “super special voice activated attacks” repeated clips.
The characters look too generic and even too much alike. Most other characters are just distinguished by their average-looking JRPG costumes and not their faces; CLAMP never really strived for facial variety. And as for the funny moments, whenever someone goes chibi, the animation looks bad even for SD. It even feels like it is overused, as an excuse to save money.
Besides the lack of detail, most places look nice or grim, just like an average fairy tale. There are some really wacky concepts here and there, but not that much in overall to deem the world as special.
SOUND SECTION: 6/10 [We will save the world with our magic powers and then go for ice creams. Yay!]
The opening and ending themes were ok to listen to. Sound effects were corny. Voice acting was average to good. Nothing exceptional in overall.
STORY SECTION: 6/10 [Once upon a time, there was a mecha… Crazy Japs!]
It is not trying much to be convincing or making much sense. It is the usual “Save the world with the power of love”.
Three Japanese schoolgirls are taken to magical land, where they are forced to become heroines and defeat an evil warrior who has imprisoned the priestess, which sustains its life and whose absence is killing the world. Blah, blah, blah, the usual Mahou Shojo story. The girls find a fuzzy mascot animal, gain powers, talk about love and justice and crap like that, as they fight the warrior’s minions and grow stronger. Predictable, isn’t it? Still, the final battle with the warrior reveals a major plot twist that saves some face. And then, the second part begins, where more fairylands and an even greater threat comes at hand, thus the story becomes much more epic as it progresses. It is still far from being good but at least it is not completely predictable.
Most episodes are part of the main story but unravel in very expected ways, making the whole fuss quite predictable and boring. “Hey, look! I got a new power in the previous episode! Oh, how nice! You got a new power in this one! Could it be that the third of us will get a power on the next?” And something along those lines. Some episodes focus on the personal dramas of the characters and some on cheesy battles with monsters of the week. It gets less linear as the story becomes more complex in the second half, but the damage has already rooted and ruined all good expectations.
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 [Magical girls that pilot a mecha… WTF?]
The heroines are cute looking, so is that mascot animal of theirs. Some other characters are half-funny or half-cool. But as a whole, they are generic. Archetypes! No reason to remember any of them. Each character has a quirk in personality and bases all future actions on that trait alone. You can predict everything if you are familiar with the genre. The red-haired heroine with leadership skills and a fear of fasing responsibilities. The shy girl with inferiority complex. The athletic one, the cunning one, the perky one… A cast you could easily make a harem anime from. Of course, they do develop a lot more than in most harems out there.
How can you drag an otherwise simple story to last 40 episodes, without using filler episodes? That’s right! With silly personal dramas! Every main character has an issue, from feeling insecure, to falling in love, to not finding something nice to wear. It colorizes the characters and sometimes it is even used as an excuse to get a new power. None of these events affect the general story but still, they affect the characters in some vague way. And yes, they do become corny and boring after a while.
The above happens mainly in the first season since during the second half, their growth becomes so subtle, you no longer care about their drama. Besides the homeland of each character and a vague reason to excuse his only-one-quirk-in-personality, no elaborated backdrop exists. There are a few details left hidden for a long time just to make them more interesting, they are quite the stock material. There is catharsis for all of them in the end but it is rather waek and predictable.
VALUE SECTION: 3/10 [How much money will I score if I sell that fuzzy animal to a zoo back home?]
The first CLAMP anime is rather famous but has very little replay value. It is generic and uninteresting as a whole, with just a few good plot twists to keep you going. Plus, many other shows have used the same elements with a far better feel to them.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10 [Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?]
I generally didn’t like it. The graphics are crude, the music is nothing great, the story is terribly generic, the characters are uninteresting and, frankly speaking, I have seen far too many better series to appreciate this one. Some plot twists were ok. Some action was ok. Some drama was ok. But as a whole, it was not—ok—at—all. Boring! Too much dead time and uninteresting action.
To hell with this; let’s go for a pizza… And then watch those Mahou Shojo hentai I was saving for such a night…
The Vision of Escaflowne. It also has a schoolgirl taken to a magical land, filled with mecha and magical beasts. And packs some really serious elements.
The Twelve Kingdoms. A well done action fantasy with great production values.
Sailor Moon. The most famous mahou shojo with far more good events to remember it for.